“Well behaved women seldom make history,” reads my friend’s bumper sticker. In so many ways that statement is true. In our country, and in many areas of the world, women have had to fight for equal rights every step of the way. Well it is March, and March is Women’s History Month. This month I will be writing a lot about women’s lives. Part of this because I am participating in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and the theme this month is News; and in part because I am participating in a media partnership between Public Radio International (PRI) and SheKnows Media called #WomensLives. This campaign is geared towards educating everyone about women’s lives today and giving a voice to women everywhere. Be prepared to read a lot this month about women’s lives.
There are many women in our American history that I admire: Harriet Tubman for her selflessness and bravery; Amelia Earhart for her adventurous spirit, Elizabeth Blackwell for her intellect and dogged determination; but today I honor Elizabeth Cady Stanton for her outspokenness. In the spirit of the above quote, “Well behaved women rarely make history,” Lizzie Stanton disobeyed the norms of her day to advance women’s rights and make history. She was a wife, a mother, a social activist, a wearer of bloomers, an abolitionist, and a leading figure in the early women’s rights movement.
Born in 1815, Elizabeth was the daughter of Judge Cady. As a child Elizabeth, mostly known as Lizzie, loved to sit in her father’s law office listening to his clients. At this early age, Lizzie became frustrated by the absence of women’s rights. All rights fell to the men: fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. She saw the power that men held and she understood why her own father often told her, “I wish you were a boy!”
At age 16, Lizzie was top in her class, but not permitted to attend Union College as they did not permit girls. Lizzie did further her education at Willard’s Female Seminary which she attended for two years. Lizzie married Henry Brewster Stanton and eventually mothered seven children. Through all of this, women’s rights weighed heavily on her mind.
At the age of 32, she began working with a small group of women. They planned to hold the first ever Women’s Rights Convention. It was there in July of 1848, that they shared their Declaration of Women’s Rights also known as the Declaration of Sentiments. Lizzie, even to the shock of the other women, added that she wanted women to have the right to vote. This was a radical idea, but after five convention days the idea passed when Frederic Douglass spoke in favor of the voting rights.
Lizzie befriended Susan B. Anthony and together they continued to work and fight for women’ rights, She became a public speaker; organized and attended many conventions; and wrote a number of books including History of Woman Suffrage, Solitude of Self, and The Woman’s Bible. Lizzie died in 1902 before the 1919 passing of the 19th amendment stating that U.S. citizen’s right to vote shall not be denied on account of sex. However, she did witness many notable strides: because of her work women were able to vote in some school and city elections; and educational doors were opening to more and more women.
So to the woman that got the ball rolling on Women’s Rights and our right to vote – I want to thank Elizabeth Cady Stanton – a woman that was intelligent, eloquent, brave, and doggedly determined to see that women were to be recognized as equals to men. It is because of women willing to buck tradition, misbehave, and act on radical ideas that we are able to make strides forward.
I am not sure where we would be in this journey without Lizzy’s initiative and gumption. Thank you, Elizabeth Cady Stanton!